Three days after first getting the news of it, the death of Doug Pappas seems
no more real than it did on Friday. I know that denial is a stage of grief,
but it’s easy to get stuck there when you find your friend quoted in the
paper, as Doug was in yesterday’s Denver Post, the words from an
interview conducted well before his passing.
That Doug would be sharing knowledge even after his death is appropriate. The
man is gone, and we’re all less for that loss, but what remains, what will
remain, is his amazing work. From his efforts as part of the Society for American
Baseball Research to his writing for Baseball Prospectus to his nascent
Weblog, Doug spent much of his life sharing knowledge with others. Without fanfare, every day Doug made the world a little smarter, a little better, and
did so for nothing more than the fact that he enjoyed it.
I didn’t know Doug as well as some of my friends did. Six months ago, I barely
knew him at all, having shared just a few brief meetings along with many
e-mail exchanges. Last December, though, Sophia and I had dinner with him in
Yonkers. Now, I make a point of saying that Sophia was there, because I know a
lot of people in baseball who make for awkward dinner partners when the
subject moves outside our shared passion. That wasn’t the case with Doug, who
kept Sophia regaled with stories of his trips around the country, and who made
such an impression on my wife in that meeting that she, too, was heartbroken
upon hearing last week’s news.
Not long after that night, I saw Doug again, participating in two book
signings with him in March, getting to meet his mother, Carolyn, at the first.
I’m sure that Doug had given his mother countless reasons to be proud of him
before that night, but I thought it was great that she was there to see him in
that environment, dozens of people there to hear him speak and to get his
autograph. He was tremendous in that setting, equal parts informative and
entertaining, as natural with a microphone as we knew him to be with a
The last time I saw Doug was just after the second of those two events. After
the signing, a number of BPers and attendees were off to some local
establishment for beverages and ball talk, and I thought that Doug would join
us. With a long trip back to Westchester, though, he declined, and headed to
the nearest subway. I wish I’d been able to prevail upon him to come with us
that night, because a few more people would have gotten to know him, to enjoy
his personality, his wit, and his passion for that other baseball team in New
I said this in introducing Doug at those signings, and I’ll say it again here:
of all the people I have worked with, I am most proud to have been able to
work with Doug Pappas. His efforts to get at the truth of baseball’s economic,
labor and public policy issues were ceaseless, their impact lasting. That we
were able to get Doug to write for Baseball Prospectus, that I was able
to call him a colleague, is one of the most rewarding elements of my career.
It wasn’t just the caliber of his work, which of course was high. It was that
he had the courage to stand up and say, “They’re lying. This is the
truth,” and back it up with so much evidence that he could not be
ignored. Doug had a permanent effect on the way baseball’s off-field issues
are covered. He made it right–no, he made it mandatory–to question the claims
of baseball’s authorities, and he did it in the face of opposition from some
powerful people. When called on the carpet by Bud Selig, Doug calmly presented
the facts and refused to be intimidated.
Those who knew Doug remain in mourning, stunned at the loss of a friend at
such a young age. A glance around the baseball community on the Web reveals
the breadth of his impact, and the loss felt by so many people who perhaps
only knew Doug through his writing.
We’re going to have to get past that, and when we do, we have to do the only
thing we can do for Doug: carry on his work. Instead of one strong voice
braying the truth about the business of baseball, let there be dozens. Instead
of one Web site, let there be hundreds. Let’s let the high example Doug Pappas
set be the minimum standard we set for our work, so that skepticism about the
game’s business side isn’t just warranted, but expected. Let’s make it so that
Doug’s legacy isn’t just the work he did, but the work yet to be done by the
people who read him and learned from him.
Doug showed us how. It’s up to us to keep it going.
Goodbye, my friend, and thank you. Now, it’s our turn to make you proud.